Highlights of Japan
Highlights of Japan
Highlights of Japan

Highlights of Japan

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$5,234.00
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$5,234.00

This comprehensive 14 day itinerary allows you to experience many of the wonderful sites and attractions of Japan. From the amazing cuisine and nightlife in Osaka to handfeeding tame deer in Nara; from ancient Samurai castles to bustling shopping and fashion districts, this tour includes many “must do” experiences interspersed with a good number of self-guided days for you to follow your own plans.

Highlights

  • Visit Nomura House, a restored residence of a highly ranked samurai family.
  • Steep in Japanese culture in Kyoto home to over 2000 shrines and 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • Savour the delicious local cuisine in Osaka – including the world famous puffer fish (if you are game!)

Itinerary

Day 1: Tokyo
Upon arrival to Tokyo’s airport our local operator will be waiting to assist with sorting the appropriate transportation into the city (boarding the right train or selecting the correct shuttle bus).
The remainder of the day is free at leisure to explore Tokyo independently.
Overnight in Tokyo

Day 2: Tokyo (B)
This morning meet up with the guide at the hotel and head to Hamarikyu a Japanese garden that once served as a private villa of a powerful feudal lord during the Edo period. Its collection of seasonal flowers makes it one of the most visited gardens in Tokyo but what makes it more attractive is its teahouse called Nakajima-no-Ochaya.
Have a break in the teahouse and enjoy a cup of freshly made green tea while the guide shares interesting facts about chado (tea ceremony).
From the park take the scenic river cruise to Asakusa, a part of Tokyo’s shitamachi or old town. Asakusa is the city’s oldest Geisha district and also home to Senso-ji, Tokyo’s oldest Buddhist temple. The streets around Senso-ji feature many traditional shops and are a delight to wander through.
The tour ends with a visit to Meiji Jingu, Tokyo’s most famous shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and a popular venue for traditional Shinto weddings.
The shrine is also home to around 120000 trees making one forget that just outside its grounds are two of the city’s popular shopping districts, Harajuku and Omotesando.
Note: The order of this itinerary may change depending on the location of your hotel.
Overnight in Tokyo

Day 3: Tokyo (B)
Today is a self-guided day.
Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:
Enjoy a full day of exploring this amazing city. Visit the electronics district of Akihabara or discover some of Tokyo’s world-class museums and art galleries.
Alternatively use the included Japan Rail Pass for a day trip outside Tokyo to one of the following:

Kamakura
One of Japan’s former capitals Kamakura is a delightful seaside town home to many ancient shrines temples and other structures like the Daibutsu, a giant bronze Buddha that stands at 13-meter tall.

Nikko
Located north of Tokyo, Nikko is a city that lies in the mountainous area of Tochigi Prefecture well-known for its national park. Some of the popular places in the park include the Toshogu Shrine complex and the Tamozawa Imperial Villa.
Note: Toshogu Shrine is currently undergoing partial renovations.

Optional Tour: Tokyo Street Food Tour
This tour will take you inside the lively street food scene of Tokyo: an exciting trip across some of the hidden pearls that can only be found with the help of a local wandering around the city’s narrow streets.
Your local English-speaking food expert will take you to tiny izakayas (Japanese-style pubs) and small traditional restaurants and bars. With their distinctive atmosphere, these are the heart of the traditional Japanese entertainment districts.
None of these local taverns normally accept reservations but your expert guide will be able to pick the right areas and venues depending on the evening (always in central Tokyo) to make sure you find available seats. This way the tour can be different from time to time but will always include some of the local izakayas recommended by your guide.
Meet your food expert at the train station and enjoy 4 to 5 different venues during the tour. Although the menu is set, your guide will ensure you leave with a full stomach as you will have plenty of chances to eat local dishes accompanied by beer and other Japanese style drinks.

Day 4: Tokyo – Takayama (B D)
Get ready for the journey to Takayama a small town nestled high in the Hida Alpine region of Gifu Prefecture.
The first leg of the trip will be on a bullet train that can reach speeds of up to 260 kph. The next leg is on the limited express train Wide View which offers one of the most scenic train journeys in Japan.
Once in Takayama the rest of the day is set aside for you to explore.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary: We recommend strolling in Takayama’s shitamachi where the streets are lined with century-old merchants’ homes and sake breweries. Stop by one of the breweries for a taste of the local drop or queue for the famous Hida beef sushi in one of the special food stalls. In Takayama experience a stay in a ryokan, the traditional Japanese-style inn furnished with low tables and chairs, sliding shoji doors, and tatami flooring. Overnight in Takayama

Day 5: Takayama (B D)
Today is a self-guided day.

Optional Tour: Food & Culture Walk and Hida Cycling Tour -Explore some of the food shops in Takayama with a knowledgeable guide learning about the town’s colorful history and familiarizing the taste buds with some local delicacies. The walking tour includes visits to a tofu seller a rakugan shop (traditional Japanese candies) and even a sake brewery (some stores may close during certain days). Food and sake tastings are also included. Follow up with a cycling tour in Hida Furukawa a small quiet farm village in Gifu Prefecture located 15 minutes away from Takayama. With an impressive view of the surrounding Japanese Alps, it is also well-known for the traditional architectural design of its old buildings and machiya-style houses built centuries ago by experienced craftsmen. Like other towns in the Hida Region Hida Furukawa is also famous for its high-quality sake (rice wine) brought about by its rich rice fields, clean waters and favourable weather. Later explore the streets and outskirts of Hida Furukawa on a bicycle together with a local guide. Spend half a day cycling around this mountain village passing by rice paddies and old houses and have a closer look at the lifestyle in this rural region. Availability: April to October: 09:30 – 17:00 November to December: 09:30 – 16:00 Note: Tour dates especially right before and after winter may be altered depending on a number of factors (i.e. snow weather sunset times etc.).

Day 6: Takayama – Shirakawago – Kanazawa (B)
Today is a self-guided day.
This morning catch the bus to Shirakawago a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its gassho-zukuri farmhouses.

Gassho-zukuri means 'constructed like hands in prayer' and this is represented with the farmhouses' steep thatched roofs. This architectural style developed over many generations – the roofs were constructed without any nails and are intricately designed to withstand large amounts of snow.

These houses are private homes of the locals but some are open to the public; for example Wada House, a legacy left behind by the Wada Family who used to be the richest family and village leader in Ogimachi.
In the afternoon continue by bus to Kanazawa, the castle town that thrived as the center for culture and the arts in the 17th century.
Overnight in Kanazawa

Day 7: Kanazawa (B)
Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:
Start with the pristine Kenroku-en Garden which is ranked as one of Japan’s top three gardens. Here you will find the oldest water fountain in the country, a couple of teahouses, and a large villa that used to be the retirement home of one of the richest clans in Kanazawa.
Adjacent to the garden is Kanazawa Castle easily accessed through the Ishikawa-mon Gate a designated Important National Cultural Asset.
Omicho Market, known throughout Japan for its fresh seafood and fine sushi. is a great place to grab lunch.
Finally head across town to the old Samurai district of Kanazawa and visit Nomura House a restored residence of a high ranked samurai family. Freshly made green tea can be enjoyed on the second floor while viewing the small Japanese garden below.

Day 8: Kanazawa – Hiroshima (B)
This morning is at leisure until the departure for Hiroshima. After the long train journey it’s time to check into the hotel and rest or start exploring this amazing city.
Overnight in Hiroshima

Day 9: Hiroshima and Miyajima (B)
Today is a self-guided day.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:
From mainland Hiroshima a short ferry ride leads to Miyajima, a small sacred island located in the Seto Inland Sea. Explore the island and sample some local delicacies like oysters, saltwater eel, and maple leaf-shaped cakes.
Start with Itsukushima Shrine declared as one of Japan’s three most beautiful views. The shrine is designed in a pier-like structure and dates back to the 6th century. Its huge vermillion o-torii gate seems to be floating in the water during high tide.
Walk towards the mountain to visit Daisho-in, the most visited Buddhist temple on the island. Along the stairs is a row of spinning sutras that lead up to the main hall. It is believed that anyone who spins these sutras will be blessed.
Early in the afternoon head back to Hiroshima to visit Peace Memorial Park and Museum. There is also the heart-rending A-Bomb Dome and the Children’s Peace Monument.
Note: The Peace Memorial Museum is currently undergoing renovations with some areas closed until mid-2018.

Optional Activity: Kayaking in Miyajima
Another scenic option to travel from the mainland to Miyajima is via kayak.
The instructor will provide a briefing on the day’s course and there will be a chance to get comfortable in the kayaks on the beach before entering the sea. It is possible to kayak all the way out to the Floating Torii Gate- a fantastic photo opportunity.
After snapping some photos take a break on the shore of Miyajima. Wander through the local stores and pick up some souvenirs before paddling back across the Inland Sea.
Overnight in Hiroshima

Day 10: Hiroshima – Kyoto (B)
Today is a self-guided day.
Today’s destination is Kyoto the reigning cultural capital of Japan home to 2000 shrines and temples with 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Optional activity: Kyoto Evening Photography Tour
After checking in into the accommodation guests can discover another side of the Fuhsimi Inari Shrine this time after sunset. Under the supervision and the advices of a professional photographer play with lights and shades in one of the most amazing places of Kyoto fully empty at night.
Overnight in Kyoto

Day 11: Kyoto (B)
Today’s tour starts with a visit to Nijo Castle, an ornamental castle that was originally built to serve as the private villa of a powerful feudal lord. The main building was completed in early 1600s and has since then been known for its Momoyama-style architecture decorated sliding doors and “chirping nightingale” floors.
Next on the list is the serene Ryoan-ji Temple which is famous for its well-maintained rock garden and is known as the home of the Myoshinji School of the Rinzai Buddhist sect.
Just a short distance from Ryoan-ji is the stunning golden pavilion collectively known as Kinkaku-ji Temple. The temple grounds are smaller than that of most temples and shrines in Kyoto but what is undoubtedly impressive is the pavilion that is completely covered in handmade gold leaf.
A visit to Kiyomizu-dera Temple follows later in the day. The view from the 13-meter high building is indeed breathtaking and the fact that this veranda was built without using any nails or joiners is quite unbelievable.
The tour ends with a stroll along the busy streets of Higashiyama district a collection of narrow alleyways lined with local stores souvenir shops small eateries and even pottery centres.

Note: Kiyomizu-dera Temple is currently undergoing partial renovations.
Overnight in Kyoto

Day 12: Kyoto (B)
This half-day tour offers a unique and unforgettable chance to learn about Japanese culture in a machiya, a traditional Kyoto-style wooden townhouse which has been beautifully restored.
First embark on a short tour of the house and obtain some insight into its architecture before being able to try on a traditional kimono, the iconic Japanese garment.
While in a kimono take part in a tea ceremony led by a tea master a quintessential part of Japanese culture. This allows some insight into the unique aspect of the Japanese tea culture from making the tea to the movements involved in serving it.
This cultural experience ends with a choice of two options:

Option A:
A walk through the old neighbourhood and a visit to a nearby sake brewery with a chance to try the local brew.

Option B:
A short introduction to origami, the Japanese art of paper folding.
Note: In case the sake brewery is closed an origami class will be arranged instead.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:

In the afternoon there is an option to go out of town and travel to Nara using the Japan Rail Pass. For 74 years during the 8th century Nara was Japan’s capital and many of the temples and shrines built at that time still remain.
Nara is just a small town with most of its main tourist spots located around Nara Park. It’s also here that one can encounter quite a great number of tame deer. Visit Todaiji Temple, the world’s largest wooden building home to Japan’s largest Buddha or Kasuga Taisha Nara’s most celebrated shrine.
Overnight in Kyoto

Day 13: Kyoto – Osaka (B)
After travelling to Osaka the rest of the day is at leisure to relax at the hotel or start exploring the lively streets of Osaka.

Suggested Self-Guided Itinerary:
From Namba Station walk through Osaka’s liveliest and most colorful shopping and dining streets starting with Doguyasuji, a unique market that sells anything related to food from pots and other kitchenware to the lifelike plastic food models widely used by restaurants.
Right across from it is Sennichimae, a lane filled with small eateries that serve all the Osakan delicacies such as takoyaki okonomiyaki and the famed fugu (blowfish). Aside from the local restaurants, Sennichimae also hosts a couple of game centres and the vibrant Namba Grand Kagetsu Theater, the headquarters of the nationwide Japanese comedy brand Yoshimoto.
Before reaching the end of Sennichimae make a quick left turn in one of the narrow alleys to see Hozen-ji Temple, a small village temple dedicated to one of the Five Wisdom Buddhas. After offering coins, worshippers splash water on the statue of the deity before praying as a sign of respect.
Right outside the temple grounds and just across the humble yet historical Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum is Hozenji Yokocho a short narrow lane lined with expensive restaurants.
From here emerge to the very busy Dotonbori, a restaurant mecca which has long-been referred to as Osaka’s entertainment and pleasure district. A short walk from this street leads to the touristy Ebisubashi with the famous billboard of the Glico Running Man and a view of Dotonbori River.
Overnight in Osaka

Day 14: Departure from Osaka (B)
The rest of the day is at leisure until the scheduled transfer to Kansai International Airport.
*Japan Rail Pass can be used for transfers using JR trains (with exceptions).

TOUR INCLUSIONS:

  • Hotel accommodation with daily breakfast
  • Meals as mentioned in the itinerary (B = Breakfast L = Lunch D = Dinner)
  • English meet and greet at the airport and return transfers to the airport
  • 14-Day Japan Rail Pass in ordinary class activated on Day 1
  • PASMO Transport Pass for local transportation in Tokyo with 1500 JPY worth of credits
  • (Note: Additional credits will be charged by our guides to cover transportation during guided days. Clients are free to further charge their card should they wish to make use of it during self-guided days).
  • Bus tickets on Day 6 (Takayama to Shirakawago then Shirakawago to Kanazawa)
  • English-speaking guides for tours on Days 2 and 11 (supplementary charges apply for other languages)
  • All entrance fees and public transportation fees as mentioned in the itinerary on Days 2 and 11
  • Japanese cultural experience in Kyoto on Day 12

TOUR EXCLUSIONS:

  • International airfares
  • Optional tours and excursions
  • Port Taxes and fuel surcharges
  • Porterage
  • Tipping/Gratuities (please refer to tour notes for a recommended guideline)
  • Personal Expenses
  • Departure taxes
  • Hotel charges for minibar or any extra charges
  • Visas (unless specified)
  • Any other services not clearly mentioned in the inclusions above

Note:Japan experiences dramatic pricing fluctuations based on Festivals Domestic holidays and in some instances on weekends. Please consult with your Travel Consultant for exact pricing over a specific date. Reservations during weekends peak season and Japanese public holidays will be subject to supplementary charges.

Trip prices and dates are correct at the time of the website going live, however all offers are subject to reconfirmation at the time of booking. Note prices usually display available discounted rates if any, (eg. Early Bird Deals if applicable).   All featured tour itineraries and offers maybe subject to change due to seasonal variations without notice, or due to local conditions or other conditions. Please confirm all details at time of booking. Travel insurance is mandatory for all Innovative Travel bookings. All passports must be valid for 6 months prior to your return to your home country.   Visas are the responsibility of the traveller. Special VIP meet and assist offers are valid for New Zealand passport holders, for other nationalities please check at the time of booking. For full terms and conditions, please refer to our Booking Conditions  page.

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